Are the people of Freiburg so cheerful because their city gets more sun than anywhere else in Germany, or have they been rewarded with so much sunshine precisely because they are so good-natured? It's hard to say. But what is certain is that life is good in Germany's southernmost city.
Freiburg has more to offer than friendly faces alone, including one of Germany's prettiest old quarters, with its characteristic bächle – the narrow channels of water that run alongside the pavements. Add to that a wealth of culture and history, lots of cafés and cosy bars, delicious regional food and scenic surroundings. What's more, the overall atmosphere is easygoing, laid-back and more carefree than most. It's almost – in a word – mediterranean. Experience it for yourself with a stroll through the old quarter overlooked by the 116-metre-tall spire of the stunning minster, one of Germany's most beautiful religious buildings. The square on which it stands is the largest in the city centre, and hosts a market every day except Sunday. The square's main sights are the Historical Merchants' Hall from 1532 with its deep-red facade and colourful corner towers, the Museum of Municipal History in the Haus Zum Schönen Eck from 1761, and the Alte Wache, now the House of Badensian Wines – certainly not the worst use for this beautiful old guardhouse! The other major square in the old quarter is Augustinerplatz. Overlooked by an Augustinian abbey and the remains of the city wall, this is a popular rendezvous for locals, which probably has something to do with the stone steps that flank one side. The lively atmosphere here is strongly reminiscent of the Spanish Steps in Rome. It's then onto Rathausplatz, location of the Old and New Town Hall, gothic St. Martin's Church and a fountain with a statue of monk and alchemist Berthold Schwarz, who supposedly invented gunpowder here in the city.
Oberlinden and Unterlinden are two rather more peaceful squares in the centre of Freiburg, and both have a beautiful old lime tree as their focal point. True Freiburg connoisseurs describe pretty little Adelhauser-Platz, which lies away from the beaten track, as the city's loveliest square. These marvellous locations provide an ideal backdrop for the dozens of celebrations, both large and small, which take place every year in Freiburg's old town. The programme kicks off in January with the international 'trade fair' of culture and the grenzenlos festival, and continues uninterrupted through to December, when the Christmas market and the Circus Festival round off the season. Among the highlights in between are the colourful antics of the Freiburg Carnival, the city's marathon, film seasons, open-air cinemas, a summer film festival, various fun fairs, the Summer of Culture, the Courtyard Festival, the Sea of Love music festival and the Zelt-Musik Festival, as well as plays performed in the town hall courtyard, the 'Lake Night' Festival and a wine festival. It's hard to believe there could be so much going on, but just ask anyone who's been! And if all the celebrations get a bit too much, you can unwind in the many parks and green spaces, such as Schlossberg hill, Mundenhof wildlife park, 1,284m Mount Schauinsland on the doorstep of Freiburg and lots of lakes in and around the city. After all, Freiburg values Mother Nature, and never wavers in its commitment to its environmental policies of sustainability and renewable energy. This has been a great success. As a 'green city', Freiburg has become a global benchmark for eco-friendly living. But you don't have to be an energy expert to be impressed by Freiburg – even if you visit on one of those rare occasions when the sun has decided to take a day off.